Saturday, October 9, 2010

Wood Fired Brick Oven Sourdough Pizza

It is possible to make amazing pizza at home.  I've mentioned Jim Lahey's No Knead Pizza dough in a previous blog on Sourdough Pizza. I've baked pizza make with this dough n a gas oven at 500 degrees F on a pizza stone and 400 degrees F in an electric oven on a sheet pan.  I've followed the recipe exactly and I've made it with kids not so exactly. Every time, it's a winner so if you want to make great pizza at home and you don't have a wood fired brick oven in your backyard this is the only way to go.

On the other hand, if you just happen to have a friend who built a brick oven in their back yard make your pizza in that and you will be amazed.The oven should reach over 800 degrees F.  It's incredible to watch it puff and bubble ~ like magic.

So, as you know, I've been experimenting on my sourdough starter to make pizza dough.  Well, I've finally found the ultimate recipe so far.  Its not Anthony Mangieri's Una Pizza Napoletana but it's mine.  It's the best pizza I've ever made and as far as I'm concerned unless I'm eating Anthony's pizza I make the best and don't need to eat any other.  I know that's a huge thing to say.  I've repeated the recipe several times.  Now the test will be to see it through the different seasons, the change in humidity and pressure of the atmosphere.

Now that it's fall, the humidity and ambient temperature are affecting the dough.  But still it can be made at home.  I bake mine on my pizza stone with the temperature set to 550 degrees F and look at the results.

These are the best of the 4 days of pizza making at home.  I made two batches of dough on Monday.  Tuesday I divided the dough into 3 parts and we baked two pies.  Wednesday  morning I took the second batch out and in the evening made two pies again.  Then Friday morning I took the last batch out in the morning and the photos here are the two pies we baked. I wasn't able to bake on day 3 so this is day 4.  The dough was very tasty and you could begin to taste the flavor of the sour without it being over powering.  The crust puffed up nicely and when we let it sit for a few minutes before diving right in, the juices from the tomatoes soaked into the dough making it tender.  Yet the bottom remained crisp.

Everyone has an idea of what and how they want their pizza to be.  I am no exception.  I want it crisp yet soft with a slight chew and lots of flavor.  It also depends on what I'm doing with it.  Will the pizza be the main meal or an appetizer.  Is it a side dish or are we just snacking.  All these elements determine how I want my pizza to be.  This dough recipe also allows me to pile on the cheese or the fresh tomatoes and not worry that the dough won't be able to handle it.  I know Anthony would disagree.  I think he would say it's all about the dough, the toppings should be minimal and not over power the dough.  I would agree with conditions ~ it's all individual and depends on what you're looking for.

The key is to use a small amount of starter and let it sit in your refrigerator for 3 days.  I've found that 2 days will work but the flavor isn't quite developed yet.  4 days also works but you may notice that you don't get the same rise almost like day 2 but with more flavor.Your pizza can also be grilled, yes on your gas, charcoal, or wood fired grill.  The flavor is amazing.  Your dough should not be sticky but not to worry, as long as the grill is hot enough that it is unlikely to stick. 

The sourdough dough is very sensitive to temperature, humidity, pressure,etc, very unlike dry or fresh yeast.  It requires getting to know it very well.  Now that the temperature outside has dropped to 70 and below the dough needs more time to sit out and come to room temp.  But its not just room temp it has to come to, it needs to relax and to help it relax it needs both heat and time.  So the next 6 months of cooler temperatures will keep my apartment warm using the oven so much and will give me the experience I need not only to get to know my new oven but to understand my dough.

I've read a lot about making pizza with a starter and it's hard to know which recipe is going to be the one you're going to like unless you start trying them all.  There's also not a lot out there about using the starter.  What I've learned so far is that your dough should feel like a baby's bottom.  Soft and supple and fresh literally.  When you get the feel right you will know instantly (unless of course you've never felt a baby's bottom, in which case you're out of luck).  That actually means it will be moist and might even be sticky until you put some flour on it.  Just a little and then it will feel perfect (until you work the flour into the dough and then it might feel sticky again but that's ok).  It needs to be kneaded and you can use a mixer, your hands or a combination which you will do anyway.  It is important to feel your dough.  If it breaks when you gently stretch it you may be using too much starter.  It is vital that once you knead the dough for about 8 minutes using the mixer, that it sits for ideally 3 days in the refrigerator.  Your refrigerator is best set at the middle setting or just a notch warmer.  It should not be freezing anything.  Ideally your kitchen temperature will be above 72.  Depending on the temperature inside and out will determine when you take your dough out to come to room temp.  If it's 100 degrees F outside you can take the dough out 2-4 hours before baking so it can come to room temp while the oven or grill is heating up.  If you're going to be outside definitely let the dough sit outside for an hour or two.  If it's fall like it is now and only reaches 72 at it's warmest you can take the dough out when you get up in the morning and leave it out all day as I did.

I would love to hear from anyone making pizza at home.  I'm not ready to share my recipe but I am happy to share techniques and help you along or just discuss it.  Dough is a living breathing organism and each dough is unique to itself.

Send me a note EdibleThymes at Gmail dot com.

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